Yesterday marked the first “substantive” meeting of the newly elected Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. Notice that “substantive” is in quotation marks.
Several hours of ratepayer-funded time was spent on deciding (actually, not deciding) how the Council’s committees should be structured for the new term.
What you need to realise is that these Councillors were actually considering recommendations they themselves (i.e., the same Councillors, since none were replaced in the recent election) had already debated and made during their last meeting of the last term, so as to help the “new” team deal with this chore.
Did you follow that?! They were debating their own advice.
Despite their apparent prescience in forwarding a plan to themselves as repeat Councillors, the “new” team debated their structure all morning. However, the job was too daunting … and rife with interpersonal politics. One Councillor called the process a “headlong rush into the past.” So midway through the process, they decided to conduct a two-day “workshop” on the matter in December.
A “workshop” is where Councillors meet in private to thrash out issues that are too ugly to address in public. Now, there’s no legal justification for why the ordinary business of organizing committees should be conducted in secret. It’s just that the spectacle — when most of the members so dislike each other — is embarrassing.
To give this solution a veneer of public respectability, it was suggested that the workshop be positioned as a discussion of “strategy,” from which a prudent committee structure would then naturally flow.
Keep in mind that these are exactly the same Councillors who for the previous three years have reviewed, adopted, and published more strategies than you could bury in the Omarunui landfill. But apparently they now need to re-think those and come up with new ones in December, so as to rationalize a structure. It appears that HBRC has been infected by the Venture Hawke’s Bay virus (medically, VHBV-2010). That’s an insidious virus where the body can become so weakened from planning that it perishes.
At least they set a target date of early December. As one Councillor noted, if they postponed this matter till January, it would look to the public like they were “dithering”!
All of which leads me to suggest …
Each and every person who voted to re-elect these individuals should be required to actually attend a Regional Council meeting and witness what they have wrought … as penance. But perhaps that’s too cruel and inhuman a punishment.
P.S. Tip for new Chair Fenton Wilson … get some mentoring from Mayors Yule and Arnott as to how they dictatorially — and successfully — impose their preferred committee structures on their respective Councils. No muss, no fuss.